By Iain Gould, Solicitor
I was disappointed to read yet another story of police officers using Tasers to restrain innocent people.
Tasers are stun guns used by the police to shoot 50,000 volts of electricity into a person’s body. This has the effect of temporarily paralysing them, and can cause nausea, loss of bowel and bladder control, vomiting and on rare occasions, a heart attack. The police can use these weapons to arrest someone provided they can show that such force is reasonable and proportionate.
Blind man Tasered
The Daily Mail reports how Colin Farmer, a 61-year-old blind man carrying his white stick, was walking slowly in Chorley, Lancashire (he has had two strokes and is partially paralysed) when he was Tasered in the back by a policeman looking for a man carrying a samurai sword. Even after shouting ‘I’m blind’ Mr. Farmer’s back was knelt upon by the policeman while he put handcuffs on with such force that they broke Mr. Farmer’s bracelet.
You can watch Mr. Farmer being interviewed here. I think you will agree he does not come across as a knife wielding threat to society.
Mr. Farmer describes the police officer who Tasered him as ‘a thug’ and is taking legal action against the police force for the assault.
Amazingly, no disciplinary action was taken at the time against the officer by Lancashire Constabulary. Perhaps because of the publicity the matter has now been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
I have previously blogged on this issue, as I am now routinely receiving enquiries from people who have been subject to this form of police assault.
In one case I am currently pursuing, my client Mr. M, a 51-year-old heavy-set, bald black man, was at home when two police officers knocked on the door. They asked his name, which he confirmed, but said that he was not the person they were looking for. My client shares the same name as his son, but does not resemble him physically. His son is 20 years younger, of slim build, with an ‘afro’ haircut and of mixed race.
The police officers ignored Mr. M and disregarded the fact that he bears no resemblance to his son, whose photograph they had seen before going to Mr. M’s house, and said they were there to arrest him for criminal damage.
Mr. M knew he had done nothing wrong and stepped back into his house. Echoing Mr. Farmer’s case, my client had his back to the police when he was Tasered, falling heavily to the floor where he was then handcuffed.
Even though Mr. M was in great pain, he begged the officers to get his personal identification. Once checked, they acknowledged their mistake. Unlike Mr. Farmer however, they then added insult to injury by arresting Mr. M with assaulting police officers and obstructing a constable in the course of his duties.
Although there were no grounds for this, he was taken to a local police station, detained, interviewed, and eventually released after 17 hours with no further action to be taken.
Not unsurprisingly, Mr. M is now pursuing a claim for police assault, unlawful arrest, trespass, false imprisonment and misfeasance in public office. I am confident he will be successful, resulting in thousands of pounds compensation being paid by the taxpayer as a result of the over-zealous use of a Taser by police officers, who then compounded the mistake by fabricating a story of assault to avoid blame.
Lack of police training
Both Colin Farmer’s and Mr. M’s case have striking similarities, not least being the lack of common sense being shown by the police officers. How can a white stick be confused for a samurai sword? How can a middle-aged, heavy-set man be confused for his son? Although the police are trained in the use of Tasers perhaps it is time a new chapter is added to the training manual: ‘How to use your brain’.